Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison announced today that he will challenge Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline in the 2006 general election
. Morrison will switch parties and run as a Democrat.
Morrison's decision to abandon the Republican Party that has supported him through his 17 years in public office will surely be seen as a blow to the County Party and County Party leadership.
However, the move may say more about Morrison's political intellect than the merits of either party.
Phill Kline is a strong campaigner, especially in a Republican primary. Kline has won tough campaigns against both Greg Musil in 2000 and David Adkins in 2002. Nobody is more loved by the moderate wing of the Republican Party than David Adkins, and Kline beat him decisively in the 2002 primary, ending Adkins' political career. As Attorney General Kline has done a good job and compiled a record that will play well in the upcoming election. Coupled with the advantage of incumbentcy and high state-wide name ID, beating Kline will be tough, and beating him in a Republican primary will be impossible.
However, in a general election, Kline may be more vulnerable. In the last election Chris Biggs ran a tough race against Kline, and with the benefit of a well coordinated Democrat campaign effort state wide, Biggs narrowly lost to Kline. The race was especially close due to a large amount of bad blood left over from the bruising Republican AG primary, as well as a divisive GOP Governor primary.
In the primary Morrison would be up against Kline in front of only Republican voters and stand no chance, in the general Morrison starts with Kansas' 30% Democrat base, who hate Kline. From there Morrison has a good chance at picking off the moderate Republicans who strongly dislike Kline, give Morrison another 10% of the vote, giving him a good base of 40% of voters.
Kline will pick up the 75% of the Republican party made up of conservatives and moderates who like the job Kline has done as AG, that gives Kline about 40% of the vote.
That leaves unaffiliated voters and 5% of the Republican vote up for grabs. Not a clear win for either, but definitely a better picture for Morrison than a run at Kline in the GOP primary.
How the pro-life Morrison will play with Dems, and if Dem. AG hopeful Chris Biggs will clear the field for Morrison remains to be seen.
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